Q: Lane Ridge Farm has been a family operation for generations. What is the history?
A: Alysha's great great grandpa settled in the area and purchased the farm in 1913. Alysha and I will be the 5th generation to operate the farm and if our children decide to farm one day, they will be #6. When the farm began, small grains were a staple crop, forages were added for the livestock and then corn and soybeans. The farm had dairy cows up until 2012., After the cows were sold, corn and soybeans were the primary crops. I'd say the farm has come full circle since its origination from a cropping perspective. Upon our return to the farm, we have slowly been integrating more crops back into the rotation for more diversity. From a conservation perspective, we have transitioned to strip till from the moldboard plow on all of our acres, some acres are even no tilled. Cover crops are being integrated also to increase the soil health of our farm. We started a small grass fed cow calf herd in 2018 and are integrating them into the landscape by grazing cover crops and pastures. There are still some pieces of horse drawn farm machinery around from when the farm began, it's amazing to think how much farming has changed in the past century.
Q: Describe your farm operation today.
A: The farm has grown to about 900 acres with our return in 2015. Alysha's Dad and uncle are still a part of the operation as we continue the farm transition process. Crops include corn, soybeans, oats, cereal rye and Kernza. About 1/3 of the acres are in organic production raising Kernza, oats, corn, soybeans and clover/alfalfa. On the grass fed beef side our cows are hereford/angus cross and Heritage Shorthorn breeds. We did use a Red Devon bull last year and also are dabbling in breeding some Wagyu genetics into the herd. We are direct marketing 1-2 animals per year and hoping to increase that as the interest in grass-fed beef grows.
Q: What got you interested in Kernza? What are the challenges and opportunities?
A: I've always had an interest in alternative crops. Back in 2019 I saw some emails from the U of M announcing a field day at Carmen Fernholz's farm, so along with a local organic farmer and his dad we decided to take a roadtrip out there. After that field day I was hooked. The perennial nature of the crop, the benefits for the soil and environment and being able to have a direct connection with the food supply chain were the main selling points for me. The biggest challenge thus far has been marketing the crop since Kernza is still gaining popularity. The biggest opportunity are the benefits of growing Kernza, building our soil health, allowing for livestock grazing and forage production , plus all the food products that can be produced with Kernza!
Q: What would you like to see the PPGC accomplish over the next five years?
A: A solid marketing network for farmers to market their crop, establish relationships with food companies that can use Kernza and get lots of Kernza into the food supply chain!
Q: What do you think the PPGC should be focused on?
A: Starting small, get some good staple & popular products with Kernza off the ground and selling, then expand from there
Q: Do you have a favorite Kernza recipe and if so do you mind sharing?
A: I have two favorites. Perennial Pantry has a Kernza pancake/waffle mix that my family loves and a Kernza whole grain salad that is very delicious.